AUGUSTA — Kristin Merrill said she was approached by her fellow classmates at Cony High School with concern over the lack of a Ukrainian flag hanging from the cafeteria’s ceiling, despite there being a Russian flag, front and center.

The Russian flag sits between Brazil and Germany in Cony’s cafeteria, and in front of an American flag, which is the largest in the room. The flags represent student’s heritages alongside the nations where former exchange students have come from.

After students brought concerns to Merrill, who is the student representative to the board of education, she spoke to Cony Principal Kim Silsby, and brought it up at the March 16 Augusta Public School’s Board of Education meeting.

“The issue of our cafeteria flags was brought up by students who noticed that we have a Russian flag hanging but not a Ukrainian one,” Merrill said at the meeting. “This is an excellent example of how the current state overseas has impacted people and places from around the world, including high schools.”

In the week since, Merrill met with Silsby and came up with a plan to add the Ukrainian flag in a ceremonial way on Tuesday night in the Cony cafeteria. She wanted people to notice the addition to the ceiling of flags in a “ceremony” so it wasn’t added without conversation.

The board of education chair, Amanda Olson, helped Merrill reach out to important members in the Augusta community to invite them to the event, which stood as an open invite to other community members to attend.


Merrill has a speech written on the process of putting the flag up, but additionally, on Ukraine as a country and “not as a victim,” and will focus on facts about the country, such as the national flower (sunflower) as a way to bring light and spread awareness.

The administration team and Merrill decided to keep the Russian flag up, following the lead of the United Nations, even though students originally asked Merrill if the Russian flag could be removed from the cafeteria. She added, she had a student approach her “thanking her” for keeping both flags up, as he has “heritage in both countries.”

“We are supportive of our students taking an active role in what is happening in the world,” Silsby said in a statement Tuesday. “Often times, students don’t think they can make a difference. This is a situation of a student making a difference in one small, but powerful way.”

Merrill admits the war with Ukraine and Russia is not the first war or similar instance students have experienced in their lives, but feels especially impactful because of social media and how footage is televised, or shown across social platforms.

“It’s an important conversation to have and to think of other countries outside of what we are directly impacted by,” she said.

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